Book Review: A Series of Unfortunate Events 03: the Wide Window by Lemony Snicket

I needed another book to read while I was at the gym this morning and a Series of Unfortunate Events is becoming high on my list of motivational gym books. This morning’s book was a Series of Unfortunate Events: the Wide Window (Young Adult 214 pages) by Lemony Snicket.

“Dear Reader, If you have not read anything about the Baudelaire orphans, then before you read even one more sentence, you should know this: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are kindhearted and quick-witted, but their lives, I am sorry to say, are filled with bad luck and misery. All of the stories about these three children are unhappy and wretched, and the one you are holding may be the worst of them all. If you haven’t got the stomach for a story that includes a hurricane, a signaling device, hungry leeches, cold cucumber soup, a horrible villain, and a doll named Pretty Penny, then this book will probably fill you with despair. I will continue to record these tragic tales, for that is what I do. You, whoever, should decide whether you can possibly endure this miserable story. With all due respect, Lemony Snicket.”

At this point, it looks as though I’m definitely going to read the whole series, and hopefully finish them all soon. While I repeated a good portion of my comments between the first book review of a Series of Unfortunate Events: the Bad Beginning and a Series of Unfortunate Events: the Reptile Room, I don’t feel the need to include those comments here. So if you are reading this review, I would recommend that you read the other reviews first.

The writing style in these books is really fantastic. I like how the structure works and how the sentences flow. I’m not one who usually comments on things like that, except for this series, it appears, because I really am drawn to these books. I think this is a great book for anyone, not just younger people because of how words are defined not just by the context but by a similar definition. The story, and the series, continues to subtly and not-so-subtly introduce new vocabulary to people who may want new words and to those who may not have a very extensive vocabulary to start with. There are many examples of words being used and also described in context and defined, which I think is a great way to improve a reader’s vocabulary. And it’s written in such a way as to not be condescending, but to also demonstrate the full meaning of the intent of the word when used in very specific context.

Part of my amusement with the writing style in this book is that there are several times where the author addresses the readers in order to inform them that the experiences of the Baudelaire orphans are not ones which anyone should attempt to duplicate. These interludes amused me greatly, even though they were sometimes at points in the story which were moving so quickly that I almost didn’t notice the humor.

In every one of these books so far, the unfortunate events are resolved by the special skills of the three Baudelaire children. Violet invents a signaling device, Klaus solves a very complicated riddle using grammar books in Aunt Josephine’s library, and Sunny is far more perceptive at solving concerns in a very simple way. It was Sunny who steals the keys and Sunny who, again, proved the identity of the nefarious culprit. Each of the three Baudelaires bring their own strengths to the table and none of those strengths are stereotypical norms. When Violet, Klaus, and Sunny arrive at Lake Lachrymose, Aunt Josephine has prepared “normal” presents for the children – a doll for Violet, a train for Klaus, and a rattle for Sunny – all of which are the exact opposite of the presents most suited to each of the children’s skills and interests.

This book does have several morals throughout the story, especially towards the end. Aunt Josephine spends so much time being afraid of everything that she never truly gets a chance to live her life. And then she uses that same fear to put the Baudelaires into jeopardy in order to attempt to save herself from Captain Sham. The book makes a point of showing that a true guardian is someone who protects their charges, provides properly for their charges, helps them, and believes in them; none of which Aunt Josephine does for the Baudelaire children.

One of the best parts of this book for me was when the three children, instead of bemoaning their circumstances and living in terror like Aunt Josephine, they are thankful to each other and they vocalize this thanks. That tells me everything about the character of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny and is a trait which I aspire to emulate more often in my own interactions with others.

Overall, I’d probably rate this book as a solid three on my rating scale because I really like the writing style, the characters are unique, and the message is mostly a positive one (for all that the book is not a happy story). I’m glad that I own this book and will continue with the rest of the books in the series.

Works cited: Snicket, Lemony. A Series of Unfortunate Events: the Wide Window. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2000.

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About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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